Class to focus on youth and mental health

One in five teens and young adults live with a mental health condition.

According to Mental Health America, more than 64 percent of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment and about 5 percent of youth report having a substance abuse or alcohol problem.

To better support youth, people can soon take a crash course on Youth Mental Health First Aid.

The Youth Mental Health First Aid course lasts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Winchester-Clark County campus.

Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The eight-hour training gives adults who work with youth the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to adolescents (ages 12-18) who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care.

Trainers Angela Bereznak, also the health educator at the Clark County Health Department, and Christina Krantz, an educational consultant with the Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative, recommend teachers, school staff, coaches, camp counselors, youth group leaders, parents and people who work with youth to take the course.

“The design of the training is to reach everybody,” Bereznak said.

The course covers common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses in this age group including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The course also covers common signs and symptoms of substance use, how to interact with an adolescent in crisis and how to connect the adolescent with help.

The course teaches participants how to apply the ALGEE action plan:

— Assess for risk of suicide or harm

— Listen non-judgmentally

— Give reassurance and information

— Encourage appropriate professional help

— Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Bereznak said the goal is for individuals to feel comfortable talking to other people they think may be experiencing mental illness.

“Often we don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything at all,” Bereznak said.

Bereznak said the course would teach people to have that open conversation.

Participants do not have to pay a registration fee, but the class size is limited to 30 participants, so Bereznak recommends signing up as early as possible. Interested participants can email Bereznak at to receive the link to register.

This training is being offered free of charge by the Kentucky Department of Education through the Project AWARE Grant.

Bereznak said the Youth Mental Health First Aid courses first began in Australia in 2001. A nurse created the 12-hour training, but once the U.S. adopted the course, it was shortened to eight hours.

Bereznak said she heard about the program via an email from the state. When she saw it, Bereznak said she knew the community would benefit.

Some Clark County Public Schools staff completed training in November, but the course in February will be open to anyone in the community.

Bereznak said she hopes to have at least three public Youth Mental Health First Aid courses per year. However, if individuals or businesses are interested in private training, that can be arranged. Bereznak said the district would also continue to host courses for school employees as well.